According to thelatest WHO report, the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak has claimed 1,772 lives while infecting 71,429 people globally. Wuhan, capital of the Hubei province and “ground zero” of the pandemic, resembles a ghost town as seen inthiseerie drone footage. International airports have installed thermal scanners to detect higher body temperature in passengers coming from mainland China.
With the virus still spreading at an alarming rate across the world, here’s what companies can do to reduce the risk of transmission to employees:
1. Early and effective communication
The human resources (HR) department should issue health and travel advisory to employees regarding the coronavirus infection and its geographic distribution. The communication strategy should ideally be multi-pronged. Bulletins, emails, wall posters, chat groups, videos, and any mode that effectively communicates the message to all employees should be used. Information must be collected from verified and credible sources, including government data, reputed news organizations, and public health agencies. 2. Flexible work arrangements
Allowing employees to work from home is one of the best ways to prevent the new virus from spreading through human-to-human contact. Companies in countries bordering China, and those that have multiple reported cases of the infection, should put in place a flexible work policy to reduce the risk of contamination in the workplace and during commute to and from work. It shouldn’t be too difficult to execute as offices these days are spread across geographical boundaries with work being shared on project management dashboards, cloud-based platforms, and chat rooms.
In the event of on-site work where telecommuting is impossible and/or impractical, employees can use face masks, alcohol-based hand sanitizers, and gloves while maintaining good overall personal hygiene. 3. Restructuring leave policies
An infected employee turning up for work because they have exhausted their paid time-off would be the last thing a company can afford amid the coronavirus scare. Organizations should consider modifying their leave policies to encourage sick employees to stay at home until they feel better. 4. Company meals
Company meals sourced from a licensed caterer can not only ensure increased food safety but also minimize the exposure of employees to crowded food courts that are frequented by people from various places.